Ideas for Alexa skills or routines to keep my Dad engaged

I'm giving Dad a couple of Alexa Echos for Christmas (he has a big house and is hard of hearing).  I'm trying to find some good skills and maybe set up some routines to get him to actually engage with the devices.  I was thinkng of creating a morning routine that includes a greeting, the weather and news, maybe a couple of corny jokes and a song.  There is also the skill "Get Me Up" that looks like it might be engaging.  There are several skills that play Old Time Radio but I'm concerned that the one I've chosen, Radio Fun Time, will be difficult for him to remember how to envoke.   Could I write a routine that would bring it up if he said "Alexa, play old radio shows"?  I think he would understand that better.  I'm also intrigued by the "Alexa, Let's Chat" skill and "20 Questions"

What commands, skills or routines have others found to be especially useful?  I really want Dad to use these devices and have fun with them.

10 thoughts on “Ideas for Alexa skills or routines to keep my Dad engaged”

  1. Hi Allynn,

    Hi Allynn,

    That is an excellent idea as Amazon has greatly improved Alexa Routines. You can now invoke an Alexa Skill from an Alexa Routine and even cause Alexa to execute any command that you can speak to Alexa by using “Custom Actions.”

    You can trigger Alexa Routine by a time-of-day, motion detection, or even a button and by speaking to Alexa.

    So, your idea of your Dad saying, “Alexa, play old radio shows” could trigger an Alexa Routine that would launch the skill “Radio Fun Time.”

    You can log into your Dad’s account remotely and create new ones or modify existing ones

    I’m thinking “Creating Alexa Routines” would make a good tutorial for my column.

    In the meantime, here is an overview from Amazon

    BTW, your Dad might be interested in my skill “My Clock”


    • I love your clock skill!  I

      I love your clock skill!  I'll be adding it to Dad's echo's soon.  

      I set one Echo up for him on Christmas Eve and he is using it but he was having a LOT of trouble hearing and understanding Alexa.  I slowed her speech down and also went in to the equalizer and turned the bass and mids down to nothing and the treble up as high it would go. That helped a lot but he still has some problems.  I even made her Canadian!  Of course new hearing aids would be the best solution!

      I've already used the reminder feature to tell him about the football game and remind (more than once) to call his cousin.  He doesn't quite get the "calling from Alexa" thing yet but I'm going to visit tomorrow and we'll go over it.

      One problem – I had him on my "household" but had to remove him because we ended up sharing a shopping list.  Unfortunately, when I did that I couldn't use Drop in because, apparently, I disabled it on his cell phone and I think I need to go in to the app on that device to make it work.  Of course, I can still drop in by signing in to his account on my tablet but I wonder if people using a Google number have a problem with drop in. 

      All in all, using his account on my tablet is the best solution to almost any problem since the app has a lot more features than the website on the computer.

      • Hello Allynn,

        Hello Allynn,

        I'm not quite sure why you can't drop in on your Dad. I assume you can still call him so, Alexa Calling is working. 

        I suggest you take a look at his communication settings using your tablet with his account. I love that idea and also use it with my Aunt's account on an old phone I have without service. Much easier than logging out of my account and then into her Alexa account on my normal phone.

        I'll bet that his drop-in on his Echo Show device is set to "My Household", rather than "permitted contacts only". You will also need to see that your Contact has "Allow Drop In" under "Permissions" 



        • Hmmmm…. I think I managed

          Hmmmm…. I think I managed to get myself on the "able to drop in" list BUT it only seems to let me drop in to Dad's cell phone, not his echo.  I even got a mesage from his phone saying I could now drop in (but, of course, he never has his phone on!).  I'm going over there this afternoon and hopefully sort the whole thing out. I have to remember that, since the everything is "in the cloud" there is a definite time lag before settings update.  I haven't tried an actual video call yet because Dad doesnt' know what button push to answer.  I'll try another drop in from my tablet (on his account) before I head over there.   Checking the log I can see that he's definitely using it, which is great!  Just need to work a few more bugs out!

          • Hello Allynn,

            Hello Allynn,

            I want to point out a problem and some workarounds for an issue that may affect you and your dad. This has been a complaint on the Amazon User Forum for many years.

            The problem is that you can't drop in on a specific Echo Device in another household as you can in your own household

            Here are my standard workarounds:

            I have 2 workarounds, but they require some effort and have limited flexibility. In most cases, you will be using drop in out of concern for safety or the lack of a loved one’s ability to answer a call verbally.

            1. Allow only ONE Echo device in the loved one's home to support drop in. Then, at least you will know which one Alexa will pick
            2. In the Alexa app on your mobile device, logout of your own Alexa account and login with your loved one’s Alexa account, and drop in on a specific device. This is possible as you are now a member of the household.

            Since you said you already have a tablet on his account, #2 should be easy




          • Yeah – I figured that out

            Yeah – I figured that out already.  I've decided to just always use my tablet with Dad's account to drop in.  That works really well and it's so easy.  I used it to tell Dad I was at the front door and to LET ME IN yesterday!  Gotta love Alexa.

            Here's a question though – if Dad calls me (or starts a video chat) I believe Alexa wil ask if he wants my phone or my device.  And then Alexa will remeber that preference.  Could I "fox" it by putting my contact in twice : Allynn's Phone, Allynn's Alexa?  Or will it know it's the same number.  I doubt he's going to be initiating any calls for awhile anyway; I'm just curious

          • Hello Allynn,

            Hello Allynn,

            That double-entry Contacts method won’t work, but you just gave me an idea on how to do it with Alexa Routines.

            Set up the Routines like this:

            The  “When You Say” part to be “Call Allynn’s phone” and the Custom Action to be “Call Allynn XXX’s Mobile” (Where XXX is your last name, if used in the Contacts)

            The “When You Say” part to be “Call Allynn’s Alexa” and the Custom Action part to be “Call Allynn XXX’s Alexa devices” (Where XXX is your last name, if used in the Contacts)

            I gave this a quick test, and it works well

            I’m writing an article on how to create similar Alexa Routines


          • Thanks for the heads up and I

            Thanks for the heads up and I like the idea of a routine.  I can't wait to see your article (hurry up!)

            I just want to confirm that Dad is loving his Alexas (even if he sometimes calls her Alexis).  We're still keeping it pretty basic but he asks the time and weather all the time, has figured out how to get it to play a couple of different radio stations, asks for jokes and songs and is really starting to get the hang of it.  I'm so happy!!!

        • Nevermind!  I got it.  Even

          Nevermind!  I got it.  Even though it says I'm dropping in on Dad's cell it is actually his device.  One more question… when I set up the other Alexa devices, how will I know which one I will be dropping in on?